Original Tie Fighter Photo

Die-Cast Metal Star Wars Ships

As most retro toy collectors know, 1977 was a pretty scarce year for Star Wars Toys. It wasn’t until the year following the film’s release that toy production began ramping up. Along with the introduction of the saga’s 3 3/4″ action figure line and accompanying vehicles, Kenner also released four Die-cast vehicles as well: the X-Wing Fighter, the TIE Fighter, Darth Vader’s TIE Fighter, and the Landspeeder.

(Photo from RonsRescuedTreasures.com)

Each ship came in a plastic bubble attached to a card, not unlike Kenner’s action figures. None of the ships (especially when compared to the later releases) are to scale. Each of the toys had (unintentionally) removable parts, many of which have gone missing over the years. It’s not uncommon to find loose X-Wing and TIE Fighters missing their cockpits. Landspeeders came apart in layers. First the windshields came off, followed by Luke and C-3P0, followed by the speeder’s seats and eventually the rear middle jet engine.

(Photo from the Star Wars Collectors Archive)

Based on the initial success of the line in 1978, four additional die-cast metal ships were released in 1979: The Millennium Falcon, the Y-Wing Fighter, the Imperial Cruiser, and the TIE Bomber. Again, none of these vehicles were to any scale (the Imperial Cruiser is roughly the same length as Luke’s Landspeeder), but they were all pretty cool to own nonetheless. Each of these four ships suffered from the same problem as the previous year’s toys; while the die-cast metal ship hulls proved to be virtually indestructible, the tiny added-on bits of plastic tended to disappear relatively quickly. Show me a Falcon with its radar dish still attached or Imperial Cruiser that still has its detachable Blockade Runner and I’ll show you a kid that didn’t play with his toys very often.

Along with the Empire, Kenner struck back with three more releases in the line: the Twin Pod Cloud Car, the Slave I, and the Snowspeeder. The Twin Pod Cloud Car is probably the easiest to find complete in the wild as it only has one moving part (the landing gear) which is actually pretty difficult to dislodge from the ship itself.

As a kid, these ships were just the right size to slip into a backpack and take to school or stick into a back pocket on the way over to a friend’s house. I vividly remember riding my bike with one hand while holding the die-cast X-Wing out in front of me with the other hand, pretending it was flying. (My generation’s version of “texting while driving,” perhaps.)

Loose die-cast ships missing parts can often be picked up for $5-$10, while complete ships can run you upwards of $20-$50, depending on the ship. All bets are off for carded ships, which often go for hundreds of dollars.

Rob O'Hara

I'm into old video games, old arcade games, old computer games, writing, photography, computer/network security, and of course, the 1980s!

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